Photokina 2014 highlights

Spacecraft

The Mars Odyssey spacecraft is one of the 3D-printable models made available by NASA

If you have access to a 3D printer, then you can build your own space fleet courtesy of NASA – provided you don’t mind spacecraft that are plastic and four inches long. As part of its continuing program of education and outreach, the space agency has released 22 printable models of NASA and European space probes, asteroids, and planetary landscapes for the hobbyist and space enthusiast.  Read More

Subsystems on the MOXIE instrument (Image: NASA)

Oxygen is such an abundant resource on Earth that we rarely think about it unless we get locked in a cupboard. However, for space engineers, the question of how to get enough of the vital gas is constant, frustrating problem. To help future explorers of the Red Planet get enough oxygen for life support and powering spacecraft, NASA has included MIT’s MOXIE experiment on the Mars 2020 mission to study how to make oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere.  Read More

According to a puzzling report, a new thruster design appears to be able to accelerate a c...

A NASA study has recently concluded that the "Cannae Drive," a disruptive new method of space propulsion, can produce small amounts of thrust without the use of propellant, in apparent discordance with Newton's third law. According to its inventor, the device can harness microwave radiation inside a resonator, turning electricity into a net thrust. If further verified and perfected, the advance could revolutionize the space industry, dramatically cutting costs for both missions in deep space and satellites in Earth orbit.  Read More

The ATV-5 mission lifting off (Image: ESA)

The International Space Station is getting a new load of groceries courtesy of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5 Georges Lemaître which lifted off today. The 20-tonne unmanned cargo ship was launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket at 23:44 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The final flight of the ATV program, it carries six tonnes of supplies to the station.  Read More

Artist's impression of Venus Express skimming the Venusian atmosphere (Image: ESA–C. Carre...

Facing the alternative of a fiery death, the ESA’s Venus Express orbiter has completed a daring maneuver that extended the life of the unmanned explorer by several months. Under command from Earth, the spacecraft spent a month skimming the outer edge of the Venusian atmosphere to alter its velocity and send it into a new orbit that will keep it operating until perhaps the end of the year.  Read More

Comet C/2013 A1 will pass Mars ten times closer than any observed comet has passed the Ear...

In October, Mars will encounter comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, which will come closer to the Red Planet than any recorded comet has passed to Earth. This spectacular event isn't just an astronomical curiosity, it’s also a potential hazard to NASA’s armada of orbiting explorers, so the space agency is taking steps to protect them from damage by the cosmic visitor.  Read More

Artist's impression of the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft (Image: ESA–J. Huart, 2013)

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft is now close enough to its target, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P), to begin to discern some of the surface features marking the face of the lonely wanderer. Taken from a distance of 3,400 miles (5,500 km), the images will provide the first detailed insight into the comet due to be visited by Rosetta's Philae lander in November 2014.  Read More

Artist concept of commercial Mars satellites providing communications (Image: ASA/JPL)

You can land the most advanced spacecraft in history on the Mars, but if you can’t keep in touch with it, it might as well be so much scrap. To prevent that from happening, NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the feasibility of using private satellites to provide communications into the 2020s between Earth and the fleet of exploration probes operating on and around Mars.  Read More

Three free-flying, bowling ball-sized robots aboard the ISS will use a 3D map to provide s...

Last week, Orbital Sciences' second commercial resupply mission delivered two Project Tango Google smartphones to the International Space Station. The sensor-filled phones will be used to create a detailed 3D map of the spacecraft, which will then help two soccer ball-sized, free-flying satellites autonomously navigate through some very tight spots.  Read More

Moon pit in the Mare Tranquillitatis (Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Moving into a new neighborhood means finding a place to live, and 45 years after Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, our largest satellite is still notoriously short on housing. However, that may be changing as NASA announces that its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has discovered over 200 deep pits on the Moon that could not only provide scientists with deeper insights into the geology of the Moon, but could also be used as sites for future Lunar outposts.  Read More

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